ponedjeljak, 25.04.2011.

Lakers take control against Hornets

Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, Pau Gasol snapped out of his playoff funk with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers took control of their first-round playoff series with a 100-86 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night.

Andrew Bynum added 14 points and 11 rebounds and Lamar Odom had 13 points for the two-time defending champs, who took the lead for good when Ron Artest made a layup as he was fouled to make it 13-10.

The victory gave the Lakers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 in New Orleans on Sunday.

Chris Paul had 22 points and eight assist for the Hornets, who managed to stay within single digits for long stretches of the game but never truly threatened to take the lead.

Bryant's intensity was evident from the opening minutes when he violently rejected Carl Landry's attempted close-range shot out of bounds and soon after he cut into the lane for a vicious one-handed jam.

Hornets fans' attempts at booing or heckling him only seemed to help him focus. Hitting on his typical array of demoralizing 3s and off balance jumpers off the glass, he had 15 points in the first half. He didn't need to take the game over in the second because of Gasol's emergence, which the Lakers thought was long overdue after he averaged only eight points, about 11 below his average, during the first two games of the series.

Although Gasol still didn't seem quite himself in the first half, when he had four points, he became a factor when it mattered, hitting a momentum-changing 3 from the corner that made it 78-70 early in the fourth quarter. The basket ignited a 10-1 run during which Gasol scored seven points, adding a putback and a soft jumper from the baseline to give Los Angeles an 85-71 lead with 8:36 left, the Lakers' largest lead to that point.

Paul meanwhile, faded a bit in the second half, when he scored only four points.

The Lakers wound up cruising with a double-digit lead for much of the fourth quarter in the most convincing performance of the series by either team. If the Hornets are unable to bounce back in Game 4, the Lakers could close out the series at home in Game 5 on Tuesday night.

Certainly, the Hornets will need better production from their bench, which was a major factor in their surprising Game 1 triumph but accounted for only nine points on 4-of-17 shooting in Game 3.

Landry scored 23 points for New Orleans, while Trevor Ariza had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Emeka Okafor had 15 points.

Derek Fisher had 10 points for Los Angeles.

The Lakers' size advantage translated to a 48-42 edge in points in the paint and a 43-38 advantage in rebounding. That included 14 offensive rebounds that helped produce 17 second-chance points.

The Hornets kept the crowd in the game by outscoring the Lakers by a point in the third quarter, marking the first time in six quarter since their Game 1 win that they had done so.

Still, Los Angeles led 75-68 heading into the fourth quarter, and the Hornets would only get as close as 75-70 before Gasol's scoring spurt put the Lakers firmly in command.

Bynum helped the Lakers dictate the pace of the game early, tormenting New Orleans in the paint with four offensive rebounds and all 14 of his points by halftime. The Lakers took their largest lead of the first half when Bryant's 3, followed by Bynum's overpowering low-post move on Okafor, made it 43-32.

It might have been worse if not for Paul, who had 18 points in the first half, including seven late in the second quarter to trim New Orleans' deficit to 51-42 at halftime.

- 03:17 -

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